“I had no idea that’s what is in there!”
Jane Burton, owner of Beehive Needle Arts, has gotten used to hearing that about her vibrant storefront on 650 Washington Road. Passersby may glimpse bright fabrics and spools of thread or admire the whimsical bumblebee decals zooming around on the store’s many windows, but only experienced needlepointers seem to notice Beehive Needle Arts and recognize it for what it is.
At the most basic level, Beehive Needle Arts, which opened in 2007, is a needlepoint supply store. But with an unusual amount of fiber variety, an in-house artist who creates custom designs—Burton’s daughter, Jessica O’Brien—and a team of “worker bees” who come together to teach and help stitchers of all levels, Beehive Needle Arts has become a headquarters for people who are interested in needlepoint.
“I probably started needlepointing 60 years ago. I’ve been doing it forever,” says Burton, who owns the shop with three of her daughters. “I’ve always loved textiles and fabrics, and as my daughters grew up, they, too, became interested. It’s a passion. It’s relaxing. It’s a challenge.”
And business is booming. When the COVID-19 lockdowns hit, Beehive Needle Arts, like many other businesses, enhanced their online store and increased their presence on Instagram. At the same time, people around the globe were suddenly more in need of a relaxing hobby than they have ever been before. Now, Beehive Needle Arts is shipping fibers and custom canvases out of state and even out of the country, to places as far-flung as Australia.
Needlepoint projects require a canvas with a design painted on it—usually stretched over a frame—needles, threads or “fibers,” and a little bit of vision. At “the Beehive,” they carry 110 complete fiber lines, some of which have more than 100 fibers and dozens of artists’ canvas designs, from all around the country, including O’Brien’s originals.
“There is a lot of artistry that happens,” says Jen Broadhurst, Racine Avenue, a customer who became a Beehive Needle Arts employee. “Someone will come in, let’s say they pick a stocking canvas. They might say, ‘This is beautiful, but this is for my grandson, and he likes trains. Could you paint a train on here, instead of a truck?’ And Jessica will alter it and hand-paint the names at the top.”
Once a customer selects a project, they can come back to the store at any time to get advice from the worker bees or bring their project to a class or private lesson (during non-pandemic times). Then, once the project is finished, they bring it back to Beehive Needle Arts, where it is sent away to a finisher, who will make the design into the final product.
Broadhurst’s favorite project was a custom job. She asked O’Brien to stitch a canvas featuring her kids’ and husband’s name, then she selected a variety of metallic fibers to stitch into the design. She had it finished into a bag, and whenever she carries it, she loves when people ask her where she got it, and she can say “I made it, actually!”
“The store is organized into different sections. We have Christmas things, Valentine’s things, sections for babies, neat clutches and purses, lots of ornaments … little jewelry boxes,” says Broadhurst. “Millennials are really into it now, so we’ve got lots of young, fresh designers. The other day, I sold a canvas that said ‘Don’t be an a******.’ You can come into the shop and see canvases your grandmother would have had on her couch, but that is changing and becoming more fresh and fun.”
The store re-opened at the beginning of the pandemic with limited hours, which they have been gradually expanding as restrictions allow. At press time, it was appointment only, but Burton hopes to re-open soon, with hours on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It’s a very colorful, happy place,” says Burton. “Call or check the hours before you make the journey, but come and enjoy. Needlepoint is a very fun, old art.”